Hegemony in Dance Moms

Hegemony is the method of gaining social, political, and economic control by means of coercion rather than force.  More specifically, hegemony exemplifies how one can assert dominance through the use of ideologies by making people believe that the current way society is run is the only way to run society.  In order for hegemony to be successful, people must believe that they have a choice and that if they work hard they will have the opportunity to move up in that structure of society.

In the hit TV show Dance Moms, a hegemonistic approach is used by the dance teacher, Ms. Abby, as a means to gain power over the girls and their mothers. Ms. Abby introduces the pyramid – a ranking system reordered every week based on the girls’ performance scores, attitudes during their practices and their mother’s behavior over the week.   The pyramid alone causes a lot of drama on the show.  Parent’s want to see their children on the top of the pyramid.  The girls are constantly pitted against each other to please their parents and teacher by landing at the top of the pyramid.  When the pyramid was first implemented into their dance team, the mothers and girls were immediately against it.  However it was not long before the team falls into the hegemony and it begins to control how the girls felt about themselves and how satisfied the mothers were with their daughter’s weekly performance.

I think it is very sad that this type of control is used on children at such a young age. We see this to some aspect in team sports when some children are labeled as team captain or get more playing time than others.  However this pyramid method is a little extreme in my perspective and I wonder if it is doing more harm than good.  Sure it makes the children want to work harder so that they can land at the top of the pyramid, but it also adds a significant amount of stress and competition within their team that might be too much for girls at this age.

If you were a coach, would you ever use this type of pyramid as an incentive to make your players work harder? What benefits or drawbacks do you believe come with this type of system?

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3 thoughts on “Hegemony in Dance Moms

  1. Interesting. I think I will use this strategy to incentive my players if I am the coach. In my view, the pyramid system will motivate players and causes competition. When competition arises, good and bad both appear. Player who can not stand the crucial reality might take the result too serious, being upset and discouraged. The positive side of competition is everyone will try harder to compete for the highest position in pyramid, which overall will enhance the group performance. Right now, we are in college, and our university uses letter grade system, which is similar to the pyramid system that the coach uses in this show. What do you think of the letter system in majority of the educational institutions.

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  2. HAHA this is super funny, because I usually watch this show. Yes I totally agree with you, it is totally a Hegemonic situation, and Abby definitely uses this instance of coercion over the girls and their moms. I do think that it puts a lot of stress on the girls for their age, but you have to look at it from a training standpoint. Abby is getting payed a ridiculous amount for these girls to become professionals and to think that there will not be that stress their whole lives in the dance industry is unrealistic. I think that in this way, it is good that they are exposed to it young and can figure out how to deal with the stress so that they can become better. I think if these girls were not becoming professional dancers and were just doing it for fun, it would be way over the top and the stress would be stupid to put on those that young. Even though it puts a lot of stress on the community (kids and moms), I think that I would use this technique for training because it does put more pressure on the moms and dancers to improve their technique and ultimately in this case would benefit the girls and give the moms their moneys worth. Other times of using this technique I may or may not agree with though, because you always would need to evaluate the situation in which each key concept from class is used. I believe it is the same for each kind of concept talked about in class. There are some that should never be used, like racism and similar degrading tactics, but as I believe, racism helped build the US, and we are a profiting country today…. So are they all bad?

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  3. Personally, I have never liked this show just for this very reason. Growing up in both dance and cheerleading, I can speak from experience in saying that this type of “calling out” separates teammates and overall does more harm than good. I can see how these moms could accept, fall into, and normalize this type of hegemony, but I believe that in calling out the girls at the bottom in the way Coach Abby does hurts these children’s self esteem and makes them envious of those at the top. I do understand how this encourages competition and a desire to become a member of the top tier, but I believe that there are more positive ways of doing this. Of course in dance there are formations in which the better dancers get put in the front. This type of “ranking” alone speaks volumes, especially at a young age, and doesn’t need to be plastered onto a billboard and announced to the whole team.

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